Introducing Matrix Operations through Biological Applications

For the Blue Waters Undergraduate Petascale Education Program (NSF), we developed a computational science module, "Living Links: Applications of Matrix Operations to Population Studies," which introduces matrix operations using applications to population studies and provides accompanying programs in a variety of systems (C/MPI, MATLAB, Mathematica). The module provides a foundation for the use of matrix operations that are essential to modeling numerous computational science applications from population studies to social networks. This paper describes the module; details experiences using the material in two undergraduate courses (High Performance Computing and Linear Algebra) in 2010 and 2011 at Wofford College and two workshops for Ph.D. students at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, in 2011; and describes refinements to the module based on suggestions in student and instructor evaluations.